More young couples buying a home together before getting married

Buying a home together before getting married is becoming more popular:

Now, the results of a soon-to-be-released survey from Coldwell Banker indicate that today’s young couples are also more likely to buy homes together before marriage. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of polled married couples ages 18 to 34 said that they purchased a home before they were married. Among married couples ages 45 and up, just 14% said that they bought a house together before tying the knot. Couples in the Northeast stand out as particularly likely to buy real estate before getting hitched: Just 60% in the survey waited until marriage to purchase a home, compared to 72% in the tradition-minded South, where people tend to marry younger (and therefore, poorer).

In a phone interview, Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist and Coldwell Banker’s official “lifestyle correspondent,” said that buying a home together has become “the new engagement ring” for some young couples. They’re committing to purchasing real estate as a couple regardless of whether they’ve set a wedding date. Some even forego lavish weddings and honeymoons in order to cover the down payment and a chunk of the mortgage. “Millennials have a very pragmatic state of mind,” said Ludwig. “They know that they have an opportunity here, with low mortgage rates and low housing prices. And they think, ‘We’re moving toward marriage anyway, so let’s buy.’ It makes sense.”…

For young people who are in committed relationships and interested in homeownership, Ludwig said that the benefits associated with shopping for a home together go well beyond the prospect of owning property. While considering the very big step of buying a house, couples are forced to deal with exactly the kinds of issues that they should discuss before marriage. “When purchasing a home, there is a need to be transparent on many levels,” said Ludwig. “You must be upfront with your partner, and you also have to get real honest with yourself.” It’s possible to get married without actually knowing how much money your wife earns, or how much credit card debt your husband accrued in college. Salaries, debt, and more are all on the table when the time comes to get a mortgage, however.

Couples also must obviously figure out where they want to live, and envision how long they’re likely to live there. Even topics like how many kids you want to have come up—because that will factor in to the location, size, and style of home you buy. “It’s easy for couples to not think or talk about these things,” said Ludwig, “but they’re forced to once mortgages and banks are involved.”

This seems like an extra-expensive way to learn about each other before marriage. But, it does fit with a narrative that couples should be economically secure before getting married. Plus, couples do need a place to live…

When will more romantic comedies reflect living alone, cohabitation, and women getting more education than men?

The world of romantic relationships is changing: more people are living alone, cohabitating (maybe or maybe not marrying in the long run), and more women are obtaining college and graduate degrees than men. So when will romantic comedies reflect this?

I bring this up because I recently saw The Five-Year Engagement. This movie tackles the latter two issues I mentioned above: the couple lives together roughly 3-4 years before they get married (there is a clear period when they live separately). Also, the woman is working on a post-doc in social psychology at the University of Michigan while the man is a chef who has taken some classes as a culinary school. They end up having to try to compromise between their two jobs but little is mentioned about the relative status of the two professions. (A side note: how many people seeing this movie even know what a post-doc is? Is this mainstream? Also, I am undecided whether the film makes the field of social psychology look good or bad.) Yet, in the end, the couple still gets married. In fact, much of the plot of the movie is driven by the idea that the couple wants to get married but circumstances keep getting in the way. Additionally, the other main couple in the movie gets married quickly after they find out the woman is pregnant.

In the future, can the genre of romantic comedies survive without marriage at the end? Marriage is a nice plot device to end the film: they invariably show happy couples finally going through a marriage ceremony. It wraps up the story nicely. However, fewer American adults are married (51%) so are these films now more aspirational than ever and/or do they reflect the interests of a shrinking subset of the population? This also reminds me of the film (500) Days of Summer where marriage is not in the cards for the couple involved but movie viewers probably don’t get the same happy feeling at the end. I suspect romantic comedies will subtly or not so subtly change in the coming years to reflect these new realities and still try to provoke happy feelings even if marriage is not seen as much as the end goal.